Hawser ply yarn- An accidental discovery

Sometimes happy accidents happen, and this is one of them.
I am currently completing the last two units of a Bachelor of Education (primary), these last two units are hard and require a lot of brain space. I usually spin, weave or knit in the evenings (after a long day at the computer) to relax and do something productive. So last week I decided to try a new plying method for making fingering weight yarn (plying is when you twist two strands together to make a stronger and thicker yarn). The usual method is to spin singles in a clockwise direction and then ply two together in an anticlockwise direction. My new method involved winding the singles into a centre pull ball and plying in the usual anticlockwise direction from both ends of it to make a two ply yarn.
This time I was distracted by thinking about my current assignment (teaching fractions) and plied the whole 100 g of singles in a clockwise direction (without even noticing; yes I was that distracted). The result was a really twisty yarn that could not be used for anything and looked sort of wrong. So I went looking for advice on the internet (as I always do) and found that other people have made the same mistake (unsurprising really) and decided they liked it better that way. This plying method is called Hawser ply and it is used to make super stretchy yarn for knitting cuffs on sleeves, socks and hats. The catch was that I had to make another 100 g of clockwise plyed yarn then ply them both together in an anti-clockwise direction.

The first skein of twisty yarn.

I found some great tips and pointers in a The Spinners Book of Yarn Designs; keep the yarn tight while it is plied and give it a good hot wash when it’s done.

Two balls of mistake yarn ready to ply up. You can see how twisty it is.

After I made my mistake yarn again (on purpose this time) I plied them together in the recommended anti-clockwise direction and got a very stretchy DK weight yarn. I can’t wait to knit something up with it now to see if it does make better cuffs.

 

Hawser yarn on the swift

 

The finished Hawser plyed yarn

 

I ended up with 200 g of  Hawser ply yarn

It’s exciting to make mistakes and discover new things isn’t it. I think I will make more of this type of yarn in the future, just because I can. It has also got me interested in exploring different plying methods (there are so many) and getting a bit more variability into my yarns.

Oh and I did eventually get to making some fingering weight yarn.

My second attempt at fingering weight yarn; merino this time.

Spinning and Plying cotton – part two

Now for the fun bit…
Spinning cotton requires patience and practice. The method is different to wool and the settings on your wheel are different too.

First, the wheel. My wheel has a double band drive, which is not recommended for spinning using the long draw method (commonly used for cotton) as it is hard to adjust the wheel to take up the yarn slowly enough. I have found it is possible to use the long draw method with a double band wheel, you just need to be patient and keep a close eye on the yarn.

 I use what I would call a medium draw method that works efficiently for me. Instead of drawing the fibre back past my hip, as you do with the long draw, I draw back about 30 cm at a time before letting the yarn wind onto the bobbin. I also ‘bend’ the yarn a bit so I can control the twist in the yarn I am drafting. For non- spinners; drafting is pulling the fibre out into a thin line before the spinning wheel puts twist into it.

The clip below shows how an expert spins cotton using the long draw method.

This clip shows how I spin using my medium draw method.

It takes a long time for me to spin a bobbin of cotton, but I enjoy the challenge of getting the single (the un-plyed strand of yarn) smooth and even.

The singles are getting fairly even.

Almost filled a bobbin, just a few more nests.

When the bobbin is full it is time to ply the yarn….see you then.

From fleece to tote bag and all stops in between – part five

This is the final step in the making of a tote bag from scratch; felting (or fulling). First let me explain the difference between felting and fulling; felting is the actual process of entangling fibres tightly together to make a solid material, raw wool is felted. Fulling is the process of partially felting knitted items to provide a stronger bond between stitches, knitted items like my bags are fulled. The process for felting or fulling is the same; everything your mum told you not to do with knitted clothing in the laundry.
If you are interested in wet felting wool, follow the link to a good tutorial.
If you are interested in fulling pure wool knitted (or crochet) items, follow this link to a good tutorial

My licorice allsorts bag, all ready to be fulled.


The bag is knitted up and looks just like licorice allsorts to me, so that’s what I called it. The exciting thing about fulling knitted items is that you can never be sure how much or how fast the felting process will go, so the results are infinitely variable.
So here’s how I go about it…
First I fill the washing machine with cold water and add some shampoo (which seems to make fulling go faster) I only just cover the items to be fulled so the water level is low. Then I switch the machine on (after fueling and starting the generator as we have no 240v electricity) and let it wash for a while. In the meantime I boil a big pot of water on the wood heater. Once the water is boiling I carefully carry the pot into the laundry and tip the hot water into the washing machine, this temperature change is generally enough to ‘shock’ the wool into felting. I then spin out the item and hang it to dry while stretching it into the shape I had intended as far as possible.

My bag after fulling, hanging in the sun to dry.

An example of the unpredictability of fulling; the dark blue and black stripes didn’t felt as much as the other colours.

That is the end of the journey from fleece to tote bag. As you can see; it takes a while to get there, but the results are worth it.

Did you enjoy this series?
Should I do more of them?
What else would you like to read about?

From fleece to tote bag and all stops in between – part two

I have carded up a 100g batch of washed wool into cute little rolag ‘nests.
Now for the spinning…..

Spinning can be seen as a science, an art or a craft. I like to think of it as a craft; I don’t get too scientific or precise about it, I just spin.
So..I sit in my crafting nest in the lounge room and spin while I watch a DVD or just sit and enjoy the quiet. It takes me about four hours of spinning (broken up into movie length lots) to fill a bobbin. Then it needs to be plyed into a strong yarn.

All ready to spin…coffee; check….rolags; check…..spinning wheel……

Spinning wheel; check
A half spun bobbin of singles.

A full bobbin

There are so many ways to ply yarn, it would take me all day to explain them. I usually use a Navajo ply method which uses a single bobbin rather than two or three bobbins.

Once the yarn is plyed, I wind it onto a niddy noddy to make a skein which is then tied together and washed again to set the twist. This part is fun as I take the yarn out of the bath (as described in part one), squeeze the water out of it somewhat and then whack it against a post with some vigour. This gets my dogs all excited (maybe they think I’ve gone mad) and they all start barking like loons and jumping around.

A bad photo of me plying

Half a bobbin of plyed yarn
My niddy noddy
The finished skein (badly over exposed, but you get that with the flash)

Once the excitement dies down, I hang the skein on a contrived rack (on my wool cupboard) to dry, or I may decide to dye it first.

Part three is the yarn dying process…. see you then.

Glossary
Ply- Twisting two or more strands of yarn together to produce a stronger, thicker yarn.
Single – A single length of yarn, spun onto a bobbin, prior to plying.
Niddy noddy – A tool used by spinners to wrap wool around when making a skein.
Skein – A neat parcel of yarn, made by looping yarn in equal rounds.

Spinning dog hair

A few days ago a friend of mine gave me a little bag of hair from her Meremma dog to try on my spinning wheel (Thanks Lynn). Today I tried it out.
Using dog hair to make yarn is not a new fashion; ancient people made good use of the hair shed by pets and working dogs to make yarn for knitting and weaving cloth.

Amerind history
European history

This little bag of hair was a joy to work with, easy to comb, easy to spin and so soft.

This one tiny bag of hair made many meters of yarn.

The hair out of it’s bag. It is so soft I could fondle it all day.

I spread it on the comb

After several combings (from one carder to the other), the roving is ready to go.

When you take the hair off the comb it becomes a fluffy batt.

The batt is then rolled into a roving ready for spinning.

It spins a smooth, strong yarn.

The resulting yarn (or single ply) looks like mohair but is much softer.

I have enjoyed this little bit of spinning. Now I will be asking my friend for more hair from her dog when she combs  her so I can finish the rest of this reel and ply the single with wool to make a skein to knit a hat.

Glossary
reel; the piece of the wheel which stores the finished spinning.
single; a single strand of spun fibre. Several singles are combined to make a yarn.
ply; twisting/spinning several singles together to make a yarn. Two ply is made with two singles, three ply is three singles and so on.

Wool spinning advice

If you read this blog regularly, you will have noticed that I am somewhat hyperactive (adult ADHD) and so Like to skip from one thing to another constantly. I have many hobbies that I keep returning to after long breaks. One of the things I like to do is spin…..sheep and alpaca wool, cotton and hopefully one day silk. I just found a great post about how to spin sock yarn that I thought I would share with you.

Knit Better socks Blog

If you are interested in spinning at all, please have a read.

Some of my home spun wool; from left to right- Suffolk cross, natural – merino, chemical dyed – merino, natural.

My old Scotch tension Ashford Traditional spinning wheel.
The start of a reel of cotton; very slow preparing and spinning.

What I like to make from my wool. I didn’t spin the red and green wool for these socks; unfortunately.